Behind The Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, And Hope In A Mumbai Undercity

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Behind The Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, And Hope In A Mumbai Undercity

by Katherine Boo

Random House Publishing Group | February 7, 2012 | Hardcover

Behind The Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, And Hope In A Mumbai Undercity is rated 4 out of 5 by 5.
In this brilliant, breathtaking book by Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human through the dramatic story of families striving toward a better life in Annawadi, a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport. As India starts to prosper, the residents of Annawadi are electric with hope. Abdul, an enterprising teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Meanwhile Asha, a woman of formidable ambition, has identified a shadier route to the middle class. With a little luck, her beautiful daughter, Annawadi’s “most-everything girl,” might become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest children, like the young thief Kalu, feel themselves inching closer to their dreams. But then Abdul is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power, and economic envy turn brutal. With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects people to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, based on years of uncompromising reporting, carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds—and into the hearts of families impossible to forget.
 
Winner of the National Book Award | The PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award | The Los Angeles Times Book Prize | The American Academy of Arts and Letters Award | The New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award
 
NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The New York Times • The Washington Post • O: The Oprah Magazine • USA Today • New York • The Miami Herald • San Francisco Chronicle • Newsday
 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The New Yorker • People • Entertainment Weekly • The Wall Street Journal • The Boston Globe • The Economist • Financial Times • Newsweek/The Daily Beast • Foreign Policy • The Seattle Times • The Nation • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • The Denver Post • Minneapolis Star Tribune • Salon • The Plain Dealer • The Week • Kansas City Star • Slate • Time Out New York • Publishers Weekly
 
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
 
“A book of extraordinary intelligence [and] humanity . . . beyond groundbreaking.”—Junot Díaz, The New York Times Book Review
 
“Reported like Watergate, written like Great Expectations, and handily the best international nonfiction in years.”New York

“This book is both a tour de force of social justice reportage and a literary masterpiece.”—Judges’ Citation for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award
 
“[A] landmark book.”The Wall Street Journal
 
“A triumph of a book.”—Amartya Sen
 
“There are books that change the way you feel and see; this is one of them.”—Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
 
“[A] stunning piece of narrative nonfiction . . . [Katherine] Boo’s prose is electric.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
 
“Inspiring, and irresistible . . . Boo’s extraordinary achievement is twofold. She shows us how people in the most desperate circumstances can find the resilience to hang on to their humanity. Just as important, she makes us care.”—People

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 288 pages, 9.52 × 6.54 × 1.1 in

Published: February 7, 2012

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1400067553

ISBN - 13: 9781400067558

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Reviews

Rated out of 5 by from Outstanding Book...I am an avid reader and I would list this as one of my all time favourites. I loved that it was a true story, and it took this author years to research and live in the horrid conditions that these people survived. A deserving book of all the many awards it has gathered. A MUST READ.
Date published: 2014-04-15
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Terrible! This book dragged on forever. A book of 230 pages seemed more like 1000 pages. I would not recommend this book to anyone. I decided to buy this book because it was on the Indigo recommends list.
Date published: 2014-05-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Painful and Difficult Read Story Description: Random House Publishing Group|February 7, 2012|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-1-4000-6755-8 From the Pulitzer Prize-winner, Katherine Book, a landmark work of narrative nonfiction that tells the dramatic and sometimes heartbreaking story of families striving toward a better life in one of the twenty-first century’s great, unequal cities. In this brilliantly written, fast-paced book, based on three years of uncompromising reporting, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human. Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport, and as India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, a reflective and enterprising Muslim teenager, see “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Aha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood in rural poverty, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption. With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter – Annawadi’s “most everything girl” – will soon become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest Annawadians like, Kalu, a fifteen-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves inching closer to the good lives and good times they call “the full enjoy.” But then Abdul the garbage sorter is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and a global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power and economic envy turn brutal. As the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths, the true contours of a competitive age are revealed. And so, too, are the imaginations and courage of the people. With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects human beings to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds, and into the lives of people impossible to forget. My Review: Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a work of nonfiction that is hard to believe. Realizing that the people in this story are real, the incidents that took place are real, and the fact that such a horrible slum as this even exists in Mumbai is hard to swallow. What a sad and depressing way to be forced to live. I was utterly astonished and truly affected upon the realization that entire families live, literally, in ‘cardboard’ huts. There is no real protection from the elements or the rats that chew on the children’s faces as they sleep. As a mother, it would pain me deeply to be forced to raise my children under such dire circumstances. When the storms come, the huts are flooded with raw sewage and the smell is overpowering. Sickness is prevalent and the medical care is atrocious as the hospitals are filthy dirty. The condition and health of the women and girls was especially distressing to me. These poor souls live in a very harsh and unforgiving environment and one of the poorest of the poor. There is no escape for these people, no upward mobility, and no way to advance to get themselves out of living in this horrible tragic life. The extreme level of poverty is truly sickening and I’ve been so affected by this story that it has propelled me into looking at a donation of some sort to an organization that might be able to help these people. Katherine Boo has written a remarkable, thoroughly researched, engaging, insightful, educational, and informative ethnography of slum life on the outskirts of Mumbai in Annwadi. Boo’s ability to capture the devastating toll this type of living has on its inhabitants is truly phenomenal. Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a must read in order to fully understand the degrading and indignant conditions in which some of our fellow human beings are forced to live. It has been quite a while where I have personally been so affected by a piece of writing. As I finish this review my shock factor is still at its height.
Date published: 2014-08-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unforgettable Due to grim situation that unfolds in the beginning of this book I was hesitant to continue reading. Not because I haven't read about difficult circumstances before, but because I find myself needing to be in a particular mindset before beginning a tough read. Pushing my reluctance aside, I read through a few more pages and was hooked. "Behind the Beautiful Forevers" is the result of three years of tough, investigative reporting by Katherine Boo in India. As a journalist and emerging novelist, Boo weaves her experiences and knowledge of India into a heart-breaking tale of life in modern-day Mumbai. "Behind the Beautiful Forevers" shares the stories of the residents of Annawadi, a temporary settlement built in the shadow of the Mumbai Airport. The residents of Annawadi come from all over India in search of a better life. In Annawadi ingenuity is a familiar commodity. Abdul makes a living by sorting and selling garbage. Kalu is one of the many youths who supply Abdul with his "valuable" garbage. Asha, an ambitious women, searches for a better life through her controversial role in local politics. The poverty, inequality and hardship in this book are difficult to fathom, as well as the intense competition required in order to eke out a living. In contrast, the strength and resilience of the Annawadians is heartwarming and I was interested to learn how each of the residents lives' would unfold. Regardless of the bleakness of the story, "Behind the Beautiful Forevers" is an eye-opening read that will keep you interested until the end.
Date published: 2014-08-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Non fiction writen like fiction. A must read. This is a story about people living in the Mumbai slums. (The ones you saw in Slumdog Millionaire) It reads like fiction with many figures and families involved in their everyday actions and struggles for survival. I had to keep looking to see if it was fiction or non fiction and I believe the author made this book come to life with her insights and writing. Not necessarily a happy story, of course, but it show us that we are all struggling for the same things (under different circumstances, thank goodness) Another good book club selection.
Date published: 2014-07-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Stunning! Having been to Mumbai twice and witnessed the extremes there, "Behind The Beautiful Forevers" led me to understand, to a degree, the reasons for the slums, why they are there and why they will remain. It is an honest and insightful look at lives within this inner city slum.
Date published: 2014-07-25

– More About This Product –

Behind The Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, And Hope In A Mumbai Undercity

by Katherine Boo

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 288 pages, 9.52 × 6.54 × 1.1 in

Published: February 7, 2012

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1400067553

ISBN - 13: 9781400067558

About the Book

From Pulitzer Prize-winner Boo comes a landmark work of narrative nonfiction that tells the dramatic and sometimes heartbreaking story of families striving toward a better life in one of the 21st century's great, unequal cities.

Read from the Book

1. Annawadi LET IT KEEP, the moment when Officer Fish Lips met Abdul in the police station. Rewind, see Abdul running backward, away from the station and the airport, shirt buttons opening as he flies back toward his home. See the flames engulfing a disabled woman in a pink- flowered tunic shrink to nothing but a matchbook on the floor. See Fatima minutes earlier, dancing on crutches to a raucous love song, her delicate features unscathed. Keep rewinding, back seven more months, and stop at an ordinary day in January 2008. It was about as hopeful a season as there had ever been in the years since a bitty slum popped up in the biggest city of a country that holds one-third of the planet''s poor. A country dizzy now with development and circulating money. Dawn came gusty, as it often did in January, the month of treed kites and head colds. Because his family lacked the floor space for all of its members to lie down, Abdul was asleep on the gritty maidan, which for years had passed as his bed. His mother stepped carefully over one of his younger brothers, and then another, bending low to Abdul''s ear. "Wake up, fool!" she said exuberantly. "You think your work is dreaming?" Superstitious, Zehrunisa had noticed that some of the family''s most profitable days occurred after she had showered abuses on her eldest son. January''s income being pivotal to the family''s latest plan of escape from Annawadi, she had decided to make the curses routine. Abdul rose with minimal whining, sinc
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From the Publisher

In this brilliant, breathtaking book by Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human through the dramatic story of families striving toward a better life in Annawadi, a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport. As India starts to prosper, the residents of Annawadi are electric with hope. Abdul, an enterprising teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Meanwhile Asha, a woman of formidable ambition, has identified a shadier route to the middle class. With a little luck, her beautiful daughter, Annawadi’s “most-everything girl,” might become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest children, like the young thief Kalu, feel themselves inching closer to their dreams. But then Abdul is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power, and economic envy turn brutal. With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects people to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, based on years of uncompromising reporting, carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds—and into the hearts of families impossible to forget.
 
Winner of the National Book Award | The PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award | The Los Angeles Times Book Prize | The American Academy of Arts and Letters Award | The New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award
 
NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The New York Times • The Washington Post • O: The Oprah Magazine • USA Today • New York • The Miami Herald • San Francisco Chronicle • Newsday
 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The New Yorker • People • Entertainment Weekly • The Wall Street Journal • The Boston Globe • The Economist • Financial Times • Newsweek/The Daily Beast • Foreign Policy • The Seattle Times • The Nation • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • The Denver Post • Minneapolis Star Tribune • Salon • The Plain Dealer • The Week • Kansas City Star • Slate • Time Out New York • Publishers Weekly
 
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
 
“A book of extraordinary intelligence [and] humanity . . . beyond groundbreaking.”—Junot Díaz, The New York Times Book Review
 
“Reported like Watergate, written like Great Expectations, and handily the best international nonfiction in years.”—New York

“This book is both a tour de force of social justice reportage and a literary masterpiece.”—Judges’ Citation for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award
 
“[A] landmark book.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
“A triumph of a book.”—Amartya Sen
 
“There are books that change the way you feel and see; this is one of them.”—Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
 
“[A] stunning piece of narrative nonfiction . . . [Katherine] Boo’s prose is electric.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
 
“Inspiring, and irresistible . . . Boo’s extraordinary achievement is twofold. She shows us how people in the most desperate circumstances can find the resilience to hang on to their humanity. Just as important, she makes us care.”—People

About the Author

Katherine Boo is a staff writer at The New Yorker and a former reporter and editor for The Washington Post. Her reporting has been awarded a Pulitzer Prize, a MacArthur “Genius” grant, and a National Magazine Award for Feature Writing. For the last decade, she has divided her time between the United States and India. This is her first book.

Editorial Reviews

“A book of extraordinary intelligence [and] humanity . . . beyond groundbreaking.” —Junot Díaz, The New York Times Book Review “Reported like Watergate, written like Great Expectations, and handily the best international nonfiction in years.” — New York “This book is both a tour de force of social justice reportage and a literary masterpiece.” —Judges’ Citation for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award “Incandescent writing and excruciatingly good storytelling.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer   “Outstanding.” —USA Today   “A richly detailed tapestry of tragedy and triumph told by a seemingly omniscient narrator with an attention to detail that reads like fiction while in possession of the urgent humanity of nonfiction.” —Los Angeles Times   “Rends the heart, thrills the mind, pricks the conscience, and burns the pages.” — Washingtonian “[An] exquisitely accomplished first book. Novelists dream of defining characters this swiftly and beautifully, but Ms. Boo is not a novelist. She is one of those rare, deep-digging journalists who can make truth surpass fiction, a documentarian with a superb sense of human drama. She makes it very easy to forget that this book is the work of a reporter. . . . Comparison to Dickens is not unwarranted.” —Janet Maslin, The New York Times   “A jaw-dropping achievement, an
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Bookclub Guide

1. Barbara Ehrenreich calls Behind the Beautiful Forevers “one of the most powerful indictments of economic inequality I’ve ever read.” Yet the book shows the world of the Indian rich–lavish Bollywood parties, an increasingly glamorous new airport–almost exclusively through the eyes of the Annawadians. Are they resentful? Are they envious? How does the wealth that surrounds the slumdwellers shape their own expectations and hopes?

2. As Abdul works day and night with garbage, keeping his head down, trying to support his large family, some other citydwellers think of him as garbage, too. How does Abdul react to how other people view him? How would you react? How do Abdul and his sort-of friend, Sunil, try to protect themselves and sustain self-esteem in the face of other people’s contempt?

3. The lives of ordinary women– their working lives, domestic lives, and inner lives–are an important part of Behind the Beautiful Forevers. The author has noted elsewhere that she’d felt a shortage of such accounts in nonfiction about urban India. Do women like Zehrunisa and Asha have more freedom in an urban slum than they would have had in the villages where they were born? What is Meena, a Dalit, spared by living in the city? What freedoms do Meena, Asha, and Zehrunisa still lack, in your view?

4. Asha grew up in rural poverty, and the teenaged marriage arranged by her family was to a man who drank more than he worked. In Annawadi, she takes a series of calculated risks to give her daughter Manju a life far more hopeful than that of other young women such as Meena. What does Asha lose by her efforts to improve her daughter’s life chances? What does she gain? Were Asha’s choices understandable to you, in the end?

5. The author has said elsewhere that while the book brings to light serious injustices, she believes there is also hope on almost every single page: in the imaginations, intelligence and courage of the people she writes about. What are the qualities of a child like Sunil that might flourish in a society that did a better job of recognizing his capacities?

6. When we think of corruption, the examples tend to be drawn from big business or top levels of government. The kind of corruption Behind the Beautiful Forevers show us is often described as “petty”. Do you agree with that characterization of the corruption Annawadians encounter in their daily lives? Why might such corrruption be on the increase as India grows wealthier as a nation?

7. Does Asha have a point when she argues that something isn’t wrong if the powerful people say that it’s right? How does constant exposure to corruption change a person’s internal understanding of right and wrong?

8. Shortly before Abdul is sent to juvenile jail, a major newspaper runs a story about the facility headlined: “Dongri Home is a Living Hell.” Abdul’s experience of Dongri is more complex, though. How does being wrenched away from his work responsibilities at Annawadi change his understandings of the hardships of other people? Are terms like liberty and freedom understood differently by people who live in different conditions?

9. Fatima’s neighbors view her whorling rages, like her bright lipsticks, as free comic entertainments. How has her personality been shaped by the fact that she has been defined since birth by her disability–very literally named by it? Zehrunusa waivers between sympathy for and disapproval of her difficult neighbor. In the end, did you?

10. Zehrunisa remembers a time when every slumdweller was roughly equal in his or her misery, and competition between neighbors didn’t get so out of hand. Abdul doesn’t know whether or not to believe her account of a gentler past. Do you believe it? Might increased hopes for a better life have a dark as well as a bright side?

11. Many Annawadians–Hindu, Muslim, and Christian– spend less time in religious observance than they did when they were younger, and a pink temple on the edge of the sewage lake goes largely unused. In a time of relative hope and constant improvisation for the slumdwellers, why might religious practice be diminishing? What role does religious faith still play in the slumdwellers’ lives?

12. Who do you think had the best life in the book, and why?

13. In the Author’s Note Katherine Boo emphasizes the volatility of an age in which capital moves quickly around the planet, government supports decline, and temporary work proliferates. Had the author followed the families of Annawadi for only a few weeks or months, would you have come away with a different understanding of the effects of that volatility? Does uncertainty about their homes and incomes change how Annawadians view their neighbors? Does economic uncertainty affect relationships where you live?

14. At one point in the book, Abdul takes to heart the moral of a Hindu myth related by The Master: Allow your flesh to be eaten by the eagles of the world. Suffer nobly, and you’ll be rewarded in the end. What is the connection between suffering and redemption in this book? What connections between suffering and redemption do you see in your own life? Are the sufferers ennobled? Are the good rewarded in the end?
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